McKen's Masterclass Resources

Exonerated Five

I have seen many injustices in my life that have caused me to sit and wonder but when I watched the Netflix Series ‘When they see us’, could I fully see the reality of being a young black man in a system set up to destroy dreams and hopes for the future. I read a few articles about the ‘Central Five’ and I understood there was a miscarriage of justice but I could not imagine the scale.

The series was very uncomfortable viewing, at times I had to turn away from the screen; the level of violence inflicted on the boys was intense and brutal. In the final episode devoted to Kory there was an astonishing performance from Jharell Jerome unflinchingly real in that claustrophobic, oppressive and dark cell. How did he survive?

I thought I’d experienced every emotion watching the series until I watched the Oprah Winfrey interview with the Exonerated Five. Most of them tried to be philosophical about their experiences but one of the five said he felt ‘damaged’ by the experience. Those words have haunted me – no apologies, no criminal investigations.

Some people have compared this drama to ‘Roots’; I fully agree – it changes you. Perhaps, it confirms what you already know; or it shines a light on dark places you would rather not see either way you’ll never be the same.

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